The present invention provides methods for synthesis of IV VI nanostructures, and thermoelectric compositions formed of such structures. In one aspect, the method includes forming a solution of a Group IV reagent, a Group VI reagent and a surfactant. A reducing agent can be added to the solution, and the resultant solution can be maintained at an elevated temperature, e.g., in a range of about 20.degree. C. to about 360.degree. C., for a duration sufficient for generating nanoparticles as binary alloys of the IV VI elements.